Red Cross remembers El Salvador's earthquake victims

Published: 11 January 2002

A team of international medical experts is expected to return to the ebola-affected area of Mekambo in Gabon, tomorrow, 12 January, after Red Cross personnel helped to defuse tensions with the local population, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"The Red Cross volunteers have spent a lot of time convincing a reluctant local population about the importance of the international health personnel in combating the ebola epidemic and local authorities have already confirmed that the WHO-led international team will be able to accomplish their tasks in the field. They are expected to return to Mekambo on Saturday", said Dr. Razak Akadiri, the Federation's ebola expert in Gabon.

The international medical team was forced to re-locate from Mekambo in north Gabon, further inland to Makokou, because of hostility manifested by the local population. According to Red Cross officials on the ground, the crux of the problem is the effort being made to ban traditional practices around the burial of the dead which risk spreading the ebola virus. These practices include ritual washing of the bodies.

Some 100 specially-trained Red Cross volunteers have been active in tracing people infected and raising awareness of the deadly nature of the virus in the affected communities.

The Ebola haemorrhagic fever virus broke out last month and claimed so far 18 lives in Gabon and seven more in the neighbouring Republic of the Congo. To date 34 confirmed cases have been reported with an additional 16 suspected cases and overall, 247 contacts with the virus have been identified, mainly in the Mekambo area of Gabon.For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

Denis McClean, Head, Media Service Tel.: +41 22 730 4428/ + 41 79 217 3357

Andrei Neacsu, Information Officer Tel.: + 41 22 730 4296/ +41 79 217 3374